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Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s favourite son and son-in-law of lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta

Hamza, whose death was announced Saturday, was being groomed to take over as al Qaeda chief and urged his followers to wage war on Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv.

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New Delhi: “Oh father! Where is the escape and when will we have a home? Oh father! I see spheres of danger everywhere I took.”

Hamza bin Laden, whose death was confirmed by the White House Saturday, had penned this to his father Osama bin Laden elaborating the difficulties of life on the run.  The couplet was posted on the al Qaeda website in June 2002, writes Peter L. Bergen in his book The Osama bin Laden I Know.

Hamza, believed to be killed in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, had more than one link to the 9/11 twin tower attacks in 2001. Not only was he the most favoured son of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda founder and 9/11 mastermind, he was also, according to The Guardian, married to the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the devastating terror attacks.

According to the book The Bin Ladens: The Story of a Family and its Fortune by Steve Coll, Hamza was among the sons of bin Laden, including Sa’ad, Sayf, Mohamed, Khalid and Ladin, who chose to go on the run with their father following the 9/11 attacks.

Hamza was born in 1989 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was the son of one of bin Laden’s three surviving wives, Khairiah Sabar, later known as Umm Hamza. A doctorate in Arabic language, Hamza’s mother was believed to have been living with her husband in Abbottabad, located near a large Pakistani military base when he was killed.

Hamza rose through the ranks in al Qaeda after his father’s death in 2011. He was introduced as “lion from the den of the al Qaeda to carry forward the cause” by the terror outfit’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Hamza publicly urged his followers to wage war on Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv and was seen as a deputy to al-Zawahiri.

But, according to The New York Times, it would have been a challenge for him to take over as the al Qaeda chief. “Even had he taken over for his father to lead al Qaeda, Hamza bin Laden would have faced challenges as an untested leader,” reads a July 2019 NYT piece. “But his famous name would have been a boon to the terrorist organisation.”

Also read: Islamic State, al Qaeda hunker down to rebuild in weaker countries

Limited experience as strategist and fighter’

According to Jason Burke of The Guardian, Hamza, although announced as Osama bin Laden’s most eligible successor, had very “limited experience as an organiser, propagandist, strategist and fighter, all roles that the head of al Qaeda might be expected to fulfil”.

“It is unclear in which direction Hamza bin Laden, or perhaps those more senior and experienced men most closely associated with his potential leadership role, would have taken the organisation,” Burke wrote on 1 August after news of Hamza’s death first cropped up in July.

According to the book The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight written by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, Hamza was not just bin Laden’s “cherished son” but he was the only one who had agreed to his father’s call to join jihad. When Osama once asked his sons if any were willing to become suicide bombers, only Hamza volunteered, write Scott-Clark and Levy.

However, although he grew up in al Qaeda training camps, Hamza never truly experienced a real battle, the authors add.

Also read: In its Kashmir video, Al-Qaeda asks terrorists to inflict unrelenting blows on Indian Army

Hamza had more appeal than al-Zawahiri

Other experts, however, point to the fact that Hamza had better appeal than the ageing al-Zawahiri.

According to Mohanad Hage Ali, communications director at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Hamza was chosen as the face of al Qaeda because he could appeal to “angry and disenfranchised youths across the Arab and Islamic worlds, a majority of the population, now living under greater repression and direr economic conditions”.

The young Hamza first really came into the spotlight in August 2015 when sent out an audio message hailing his father’s “martyrdom” and showering praises on al Qaeda’s leaders in Syria, Yemen, and North Africa, former FBI agent and top counterterrorism operative and interrogator Ali Soufan wrote in 2017.

Hamza also lauded the attacks on Fort Hood in the US and the Boston Marathon and called on jihadis to “take the battlefield from Kabul, Baghdad, and Gaza to Washington, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv” in that audio message.

Soufan, now CEO of the New York-based Soufan Group, also wrote that Hamza having never fought on the frontlines was not a weakness.

“Hamza is not coming out of thin air; he is the favourite son of the most famous jihadi in history. And in a culture where leadership typically descends through a bloodline, pedigree trumps experience,” Soufan then wrote.

“Moreover, while Hamza has not actually fought, he has been featured in al-Qa`ida propaganda from a very young age, in videos that depict him as having been very close to his father. Perhaps most importantly of all, Hamza clearly has al-Qa`ida’s senior leadership behind him.”

Also read: Jihadi groups in balkanised Syria have found the perfect place to train for global attacks 


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  1. Communist party of India deeply mourning his death. Condolences to comrade brinda karat, comrade sitaram yechury, comrade raja. Killers of Hamza bin Laden have no heart and no respect for human rights.

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